Devil Survivor – Vols. 1-6 (Manga Series)
Written by Satoru Matsuba
Illustrated by Satoru Matsuba
Published by Kodansha Comics
Suitable for ages 13+
Never was a title so meta, than that of Devil Survivor. A manga based on a Nintendo DS game about kids who summon demons using Nintendo DSs. Okay, they’re called “COMPs,” but they’re not fooling anyone, those are clearly DSs in the hands of those teens. Devil Survivor’s original DS game title was Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor, as created by Atlus. For those familiar with the game, be prepared for a ton of similarities. In the manga the protagonist is given a name, and some small things have been changed, but otherwise it has pretty closely followed along with the original.
All you folks out there who didn’t play the game, welcome to Devil Survivor! Here, a modern day Tokyo has been quarantined from the rest of the world. Electricity has been cut off to the city, and no one is allowed in or out. Reason being? Demons have invaded Tokyo! Main character Kazuya Minegishi along with his friends Atsuro Kihara and Yuzu Tanikawa have been given portable gaming devices called COMPs by Kazuya’s cousin Naoya. When hacking into the COMPs, Kazuya and friends discover that they have been altered with a program for summoning demons. Not like the bad, murder-y demons though. These are good, not hungry for human flesh demons.
With the assistance of the demons from their COMPs, Kazuya and his crew set out to discover the reason for the quarantine, as well as a way to escape. Along the way they fight demons, and discover others who have altered COMPs. With Volume Six, it appears Devil Survivor is coming close to an end. The teens have a fairly good grasp on the meaning behind the demons appearances and what they can do to save themselves. Some serious decisions must be made now, so the coming volume(s) are guaranteed to be dramatic.
It’s a compliment to Devil Survivor that it continues to be entertaining even though the entirety of the series takes place in one city. Granted, Tokyo is a very large city, but the point still remains that every location within it feels new and equally compelling. The cast of characters is varied, but not so large as to become confusing. Most everyone knows that feel in a manga when you have to keep checking the front cast list to remember who the hell a certain character is. Of the players in Devil Survivor, they all have had an acceptable amount of time in the limelight. If there is any that we haven’t seen enough of yet it’s Naoya, but it’s safe to say that will change in the coming volumes. On the flip side, we’ve seen Kazuya’s friend Yuzu far too much. Her personality can be summarized in two words: whine and cry. Sure, there has to be someone who isn’t perfect and made of steel to make it realistic, but come on. If 90% of the memorable things you do are cry about stuff, and actually bawl, it gets annoying real quick.
The art in Devil Survivor is really detailed, so there’s plenty to look at. It’s not really gore oriented per say, but there’s plenty of action and violence. Whole groups of people will be slaughtered, it’s just the name of the Devil Survivor game. The best part of Devil Survivor is certainly the different demons. They all have their own unique designs, and the most important ones even get their own explanatory splash pages in between the chapters. These informative pages show a photo of the creature, it’s name, and a short paragraph explaining their origins. They’re really interesting for fans of mythology, and even for those who aren’t, they’re enjoyable little vignettes that flesh out the demons more.
From the beginning of Devil Survivor, a sub plot emerges that becomes more important as the series goes on. *Spoiler Alert* the arrival of the demons is a trial put forth by God. If mankind fails his trial, they will live under his rule with no freedoms. Thus the pressure on Kazuya and his friends is much higher than originally thought. Not only do they have to survive, they have to triumph over God’s trial to save the world. This is highly summarized, Devil Survivor builds up to this very gradually, with the characters figuring out clue after clue that leads up to this climactic reveal.
If there’s any glaring negative to Devil Survivor other than Yuzu’s lack of bravery, it’s that it suffers from a very stereotypical manga/anime trope. Everyone knows that when there’s a battle in a manga/anime, the main characters will fight, nearly lose, but then rally (Usually because of a flashback to something someone said or did, or because a friend cheers them on, or because of some personal motto, “I can’t lose!” etc.), and suddenly win with seemingly no new or extra power. This happens often enough in Devil Survivor that it was worth pointing out. If you’ve accepted this is just something that happens in manga and anime, then it won’t detract from your experience. But if you’re like us and you like a little reason with your battle wins, this will probably stand out.
All in all, so far Devil Survivor is a series worth reading. It’s got action, intrigue, and plenty of demons to keep your fingers turning the pages. Some of the characters—Yuzu—can get on one’s nerves, but there are numerous other characters that make up for it. The typical manga/anime battle framework is employed in the series, but it can be ignored. And if you enjoyed playing Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor, this will be a fun walk down nostalgia lane. Only future volumes will tell how Devil Survivor concludes, but we’re hooked enough to keep reading.